Medication Safety: Advice for New Parents
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are special for parents. But they can also be stressful times for new moms and dads caring for a newborn or infant.
Your health care provider can be a great resource. A good time to check in is during preventive “well-child” health visits with your child’s pediatrician, says Donna L. Snyder, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Pediatric Therapeutics. These visits can continue at periods throughout childhood and adolescence.
But if you’re between appointments and think your child is sick, or just have questions, contact your health care provider to confirm what to do next, Snyder says. And consider the following advice on medication safety—for prescription and over the counter medicines.
Get Expert Advice Before Giving Medication to Your Baby
Certain medications may not be appropriate for your baby, so you should ask your health care provider before giving your child any medication, says Snyder. If he or she has recommended a medicine for your infant, ask questions to be sure you use the right dose.
Store Medications Safely
Store any medications that you or your baby may take out of reach of your child, says Snyder. She notes that babies can start to crawl as early as 5 to 6 months. “But even if babies are under the age when you’d expect them to be able to get to your medication, get into the habit of putting medication out of their reach,” she advises.
Also read all storage instructions. “For instance, some antibiotics need to be kept in the refrigerator,” Snyder says. “So you want to make sure you’re storing it according to the instructions.” If you have questions about how to safely store a medicine, contact your pharmacist or other health care provider.
Give Medications Properly
Use the appropriate dosing device—such as an oral syringe, not a regular kitchen spoon—to give the recommended amount of medicine. Some products are packaged with these devices, but devices are also available for purchase over the counter. “If your baby is prescribed a specific amount of medicine, make sure you measure and give the specific amount using a dosing device,” Snyder adds. And talk to your baby’s pharmacist or other health care provider if you have questions.
If You Take Medication, Seek Breastfeeding Advice
“If mothers are taking medications, it’s important to ask their health care provider whether it’s okay to breastfeed,” says Leyla Sahin, M.D., an obstetrician with the FDA’s Division of Pediatric and Maternal Health. Moms should ask about any prescription or over-the-counter products, including supplements. Stopping a medication can be dangerous for some women with chronic health problems, Sahin notes, but some medications can pass through the breast milk and may not be safe for your baby. So check with your health care provider if you are breastfeeding, or plan to breastfeed, and you are taking any medication.
Take Care of Yourself
You may feel like you’re devoting most waking (and sleeping) hours to your baby, but try to squeeze in time for yourself. Not getting enough rest can be an issue if you have a new baby. “Sleep when the baby sleeps and take naps during the day,” Sahin recommends. “If you’re a new mom feeling constantly very sad, it could be a sign of postpartum depression,” she adds, so you should talk to your health care provider to get help if needed.
Also it’s important to check in with your healthcare provider by phone or in person within 3 weeks after delivery, and as needed, until your postpartum appointment within 3 months after delivery.
Remember, your first year of parenthood may not be perfect but you can adjust to this new stage. Find more helpful advice from the FDA’s Office of Women's Health.
“Keep in mind that being a new parent is a transition period that may be stressful,” Sahin adds. “But take the time to celebrate being a new mom or dad.”